U.S. Judge Strikes Down Texas Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

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from The New York Times,

A federal judge in Texas struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, ruling that the laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution, handing gay-rights advocates a major legal victory in one of the nation’s biggest and most conservative states.

The judge wrote that the amendment to the state Constitution that Texas voters approved in 2005 defining marriage as between a man and a woman — and two similar laws passed in 1997 and 2003 — denied gay couples the right to marry and demeaned their dignity “for no legitimate reason.”

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” wrote Judge Orlando L. Garcia of United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, in San Antonio.

While significant, Judge Garcia’s ruling will have no immediate effect on gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry in Texas. The judge issued a stay on his decision pending a likely appeal by the state’s lawyers to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, which is known as one of the country’s s most conservative appeals panels.

State officials quickly criticized the ruling. “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled over and over again that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage,” the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, said in a statement. “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”

Saying that Texas voters had already decided, Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that state officials “will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state.”

The ruling by Judge Garcia, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, was the latest in a series of legal reversals that have overturned bans or lifted restrictions on same-sex marriage in several states, some in the South and the Bible Belt. A federal judge overturned Virginia’s ban early this month, a day after Kentucky was ordered to honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. In Oklahoma, the state’s amendment barring same-sex marriage was recently ruled unconstitutional, while a federal judge in Utah reached the same conclusion about that state’s amendment.

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